Saturday, July 05, 2014

Cryptozoology: A “Yeti” in Cuba in 1962?

Cryptozoology: A “Yeti” in Cuba in 1962?

[Author Luis Jorge Salinas posted the following account to his Facebook Page on 06.30.2014 regarding a case involving a “Yeti” or Bigfoot in Cuba. He writes: “While looking for information on what I believe should have existed, given that Cuba is closer to the continent, and considering an ancient land-bridge that allowed the passage of Pleistocene fauna to the isles of the Antilles. [My current estimation] is that the current predator species (Chupacabras, etc.) is simply an evasive relict species.”]

Danger: The Yeti
By Manuel Iturralde Vinent
(from “Aventuras en el Mundo de las Tinieblas” Havana: Editorial Científico-Técnica, 2001 reprint)

Our Grupo Murciélago (bat group) following expeditions to the Havana Forest, was eager to become involved in the exploration of larger cave systems, leading to our association with the Grupo de Exploraciones Científicas, based in Marianao and engaged in the investigation of cave systems with true underground rivers. These caves are located in the Province of Pinar del Rio, near a little town called Sumidero in the Pica Pica Valley. Our first visit to that location was in the year 1962.

On a winter afternoon that day, we reached Pica Pica Valley as part of an expedition consisting of 18 men and 2 women, being joyfully met by the peasants of that locality. After our introductions and the obligatory exchanges, we set up our camp in a tobacco curing shed and got ready for our first adventure.

That very same night we visited the Pío Domingo Cavern, whose immense mouth opens on a hillside in the bottom of Pica Pica Valley. We were quite impressed upon reaching its entrance, since all the caves we had explored early would have fit inside it. We went along its spacious main gallery and reached a water source at which we stocked our canteens and several plastic containers. The peasants say that those who drink from these waters always return to the cave – thus, we all fell prey to this mystical enchantment.

After returning to camp and eating, we met at the bohío of Perfecto Hernandez, an exceptional man who had explored – without any preparations or company – nearly all the caves in this region and knew all the paths. Perfecto was a guide and dear friend to many generations of speleologists.

Sitting on a comfortably stool, Perfecto smoked an immense cigar he had just rolled. Dense tongues of smoke issued from his mouth, playfully dispersing themselves into the corners of the roof. Holding a cup of coffee in his hand, he gestured at the darkened wilderness and said: “The Yeti was prowling around the house again not long ago. The boy saw it and had a fright.”
He pointed to his youngest son, who sat on the floor beside us, with the unlit end of his cigar. We all turned to the boy, but the magical sense of those words left us wanting more and full of questions. To satisfy the curiosity of the neophytes, Perfecto told the story of the Yeti.

There had been talk in the region for many months now about a very strange animal, one that had never been seen before. According to the stories being told, the beast was the size of the calf, but was strong and hairy, with a long tail and light brown in color. Some claimed having seen it standing on two legs.

A man came across it and was attacked by the animal, who tore off one of his arms in the struggle. Others claimed having seen it rip apart a pig with relative ease. It devoured some 50 chickens found in the vicinity of Perfecto’s home in less than a week – even our friend’s youngest son was unlucky enough to run into the Yeti.

One afternoon, while sitting at home, he noticed that the dogs were whining and had hid under the table with their tails between their legs. The terrified squeals of a pig could be heard from the pen located at the bottom of the hill. Upon reaching the site, drawn by the commotion, the boy received such a fright that he returned home speechless – no one ever heard a word about what he saw that summer afternoon. He limited himself to repeating: “The Yeti, the Yeti…” over and over again, clinging to his mother in fright.

The account resembled another story about the “guijes” (paranormal imps) so common to our countryside, but there was a notable difference. Perfecto was a very serious man and several members of the Grupo de Exploraciones Científicas swore having seen the Yeti. On one occasion, they remarked, one of them opened fire against it, managing to scare off the animal without injuring it. It tore its way through branches and lianas as it raced swiftly to the top of the hill.

There was another occasion during which 20 men got together, well-armed, with the intent of surrounding the Yeti and capturing it. After several days of unsuccessful searching, they heard a loud commotion when the approached the entrance of a cave known as Los Soterráneos (the underground). It apparently contained some of these animals that had fled upon smelling the proximity of humans. They were able to find fresh Yeti tracks at this location and abundant excrement. The tracks allowed them to ascertain that the animal’s feet were large and endowed with powerful claws that dug deeply into the mud, while an analysis of the excreta showed that it fed both on animals and plants. Late in the evening, we returned to the tobacco curing shed that had become our campground. These structures consist of several floors formed by lines for the hanging of tobacco, tied to long sticks called cujes. I tied my hammock to the first batch of cujes. The temperature had dropped to nearly 5 centigrade (41 F), so before turning in, I put on everything I had in my bag and covered myself with a thick blanked. I soon fell asleep thanks to the warm comfort of my resting place and the silence that prevailed throughout the entire valley.

In the early morning hours, an unexpected event caused me to leap from the hammock and climb to the highest floor of the cujes. The silence of the night was shattered by a sharp, staccato howl that raised the hair on my arms down to their very roots. The echo of the valley turned the howls into a macabre symphony.

“The Yeti!” was the word repeated from one mouth to another. The dogs whined restlessly, not daring to leave the house. We all remained expectant and shocked, but heard nothing more.
Given the swiftness with which I climbed to the top of the tobacco-curing shed, I had forgotten to bring along my blanket, so the intense cold kept me from getting any sleep. Go down and get it? Not a chance. At daybreak, and when everyone was up, I managed to shake the numbness from my bones and descend to meet the rest of the group. There was much talk about the Yeti afterward, but it seems that he came to give a howl of farewell. To many people, the Yeti no longer holds any mystery whatsoever, since they consider them to be some jíbaro dogs of large size, distorted by the imagination of the peasantry. However, the likelihood that it could be some other strange animal cannot be dismissed, because there once lived an animal collector in Pinar del Río who had a private zoo, from which several species brought from other countries once escaped.

I do not know if what we heard that night was the barking of some jíbaro dog, the howl of a coyote or the bellowing of some other animal. The fact is that I have never heard anything like it again. A few years ago, I visited the home of the late Perfecto and asked about the Yeti. I was told that there had been no further word about it. Could it have died? Perhaps we’ll never know, but isn’t impossible that it is still hiding in the caves of the Sierra de los Organos. The fact is that the nature of this animal remains a mystery to this day.

[Translation © 2014, S. Corrales, IHU with thanks to Luis Jorge Salinas and Manuel Iturralde Vinent]